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White nationalist leader booted from CPAC

In this Dec. 6, 2016. file photo, Richard Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, speaks at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
By Matt Pearce Los Angeles Times

One of America’s most prominent white nationalists, Richard Spencer, was kicked out of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday after conference organizers gave him credentials to attend and then wavered on whether to let him stay.

Spencer, who coined the term “alternative right” to describe his far-right views on separating the races, came to CPAC to attend a speech that was critical of the “alt-right.” (In 2015 and 2016, Spencer’s term “alt-right” became associated with a loose-knit movement of white nationalists, misogynists and anti-Semites who often harassed prominent liberals online. For the most part, the term is now embraced mostly by white nationalists.)

Attendance to CPAC requires registration and can cost up to $300.

After leaving the speech, Spencer was quickly surrounded by a crowd of journalists who quizzed him on his views as curious passers-by craned their necks to see who was causing such a scene.

CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp at one point stood about a dozen feet from the crowd around Spencer and defended the conference for allowing Spencer in, while trying to distance CPAC from the fringe Spencer represents.

“The ‘alt-right’ does not have a legitimate voice in the conservative movement,” said Schlapp, adding that “nobody from that movement is speaking at CPAC.”

Schlapp added, of Spencer, “This is America, and we have to deal with the laws and, you know, all I can tell you is that if he had comments we’d agree with, he’d be on our stage, but he’s not on our stage.”

When asked if he wanted Spencer to leave, Schlapp responded: “Richard Spencer is not on our agenda, we did not invite him, there’s all kinds of people I suppose who can buy tickets, we have a constitution, we have laws in this country, and I think it would be better if y’all (journalists) didn’t give him attention.”

He added, “I’d rather he not be here.”

Twenty minutes later, a security guard asked Spencer to leave, and Spencer left – but he first spoke with dozens of journalists who had come to cover CPAC.

“The fact is, people want to talk to me, not these boring conservatives,” Spencer said. “CPAC can’t hold a speech denouncing the alt-right and expect me not to come.”